Charles Goodyear

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Charles Goodyear
BirthplaceNew Haven, Connecticut
NationalityUnited States

Goodyear, Charles

Goodyear, Charles, 1800–1860, American inventor, b. New Haven, Conn., originator of vulcanized rubber. He failed in his earlier business ventures and was in jail for debt when he began his experiments with rubber, searching for a way to prevent it from sticking and melting in hot weather. He experimented endlessly, kneading various chemicals into the raw rubber. He achieved some success in 1837 with a patented acid and metal coating, but it was not until 1839 that he discovered the process of vulcanization. He spent further years in perfecting the process, patenting it in 1844. Goodyear had carried on his research in the face of poverty and debt and was forced to market his patent rights for a fraction of their value. He went to Europe to try to establish the rubber business there but was unsuccessful. He died, poor and overworked, leaving his family in debt.


See studies by R. F. Wolf (1939) and A. C. Regli (1941).

His son Charles Goodyear, 1833–96, b. Germantown, Pa., assisted him in the manufacturing and marketing of rubber articles. He later turned to shoe manufacturing, being one of the first to see the application of Howe's sewing machine to the making of shoes. He organized in 1871 the Goodyear Boot & Shoe Machinery Company of New York to manufacture machines. He was only partially successful until the consolidation in 1880 with Gordon McKay, his chief competitor.
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Goodyear, Charles

(1800–60) inventor; born in New Haven, Conn. He followed his father into the hardware business but went bankrupt in 1830 and remained in arrears—he went to prison for debt more than once—for the rest of his life. He began experimenting with rubber in 1834, persevering despite poverty and ridicule. By 1844 he had patented a process (vulcanization) to prevent India rubber from melting in heat; he discovered it by accident (1839) when he dropped a chunk of rubber and sulphur mixture onto a hot stove and, although charred, it did not melt. Goodyear foresaw many applications for vulcanized rubber, although never its use for tires. Although he received patents and honors in Europe, he spent any profits on defending his patent rights, and he left more than $200,000 in debts when he died.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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